Over the past six months, I've been working closely with Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Roxbury, MA. Bostonians -- and many many others around the country, if not abroad -- know of the remarkable things DSNI has achieved in its nearly three decades of existence, including launching a land trust in the most blighted area of Boston, now 225 units of permanently affordable housing, lovely homes; encouraged the creation of gardens and parks and an enormous green house where chop shops used to be; and numerous convenings of its residents that have given rise to a striking theory of place-based change that truly works.
Most recently and working with Boston Teacher Residency, DSNI has been involved with launching the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School, an in-district charter school that is part of the Boston Public School system, which will open in September. (Unless you're an expert on Boston public schools, it's almost impossible to understand the fine-point differences between pilot schools, innovation schools, in-district charter schools, and whatever-the-other charter schools are but, in short, there are five in-district charter schools in Boston, including the new elementary school.)
All of this is prelude to the point of this post. As a result of my involvement with DSNI, I've gotten to know people in this beloved city where I've lived for my entire adult life, people whom I'd never have met if I weren't doing this work. Among them is Melinda Marble, deputy director of Barr Foundation. (if you go to the Barr link, you'll see a picture of DSNI executive director, John Barros, talking with Patricia Brandes, exec direc at Barr). Each of these people deserves a post of their own but...
Change Practice, "a blog about changing practice – and practicing change – in the world of philanthropy and nonprofits," which, if its first posts are any indicator of what this will have to offer, is, shall we say, ratthhhher promising. I was taken with a single phrase from Melinda's tribute to Bob Hohler, an extraordinary force for change (he was executive director of the Melville Charitable Trust) who died suddenly in June 2011. I recommend Melinda's post about Bob, filled with wisdom and insight. This single phrase, the title of this post, comes from this sentence: "Bob realized that the great gift of a job in philanthropy was not to process grants, give other people’s money away, but to sign on to a big bold impossible enterprise. His was 'finding and fighting the causes of homelssness,' the memorable tag line he composed for National Public Radio."
Isn't that what we all should/could/want to do -- sign on to big bold impossible enterprises? Thanks, Melinda.